Tunisia inquests: Agent criticises advice on Thomson’s website

Tunisia inquests: Agent criticises advice on Thomson’s website

A travel agent whose parents‑in-law were killed in the Sousse massacre has told an inquest that travel advice wasn’t visible enough on Thomson’s website.

Daniel Clifford, who happens to work for Travel Counsellors, helped his relatives Elaine and Denis Thwaites book their holiday direct with Thomson on the operator’s website.

Clifford said because his in-laws searched Thomson’s website by hotel, they did not see the ‘essential information’ tab on the Tunisia destination page.

The couple were among 30 Britons shot dead at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, which was co-owned by Thomson parent company Tui, and on its adjoining beach by lone gunman Seifeddine Rezgui on June 26, 2015.

Giving evidence during the fourth week of the inquest, Clifford claimed customers overlook the Foreign Office (FCO) travel advice links on operators’ payment screens – where Thomson referred customers to the FCO website – for fear they might lose bookings or have to fill in personal details again.

He said: “It doesn’t draw your attention, it doesn’t attract you. If it was such essential, important information, shouldn’t it be given when you are going through that search for the hotel? The website is designed for selling holidays, not for additional information.”

At the time, the FCO was warning of a high risk of terrorism, but was not advising against travel.

The inquest also heard that Clifford, whose email address was used for the booking, only received paperwork referring to the FCO advice three days after the attack.

Howard Stevens QC, representing Tui, said the operator had an ‘essential information’ tab on its Tunisia destination page and pointed towards important information “in capital letters” on the payment screen.

He also said that on Clifford’s own Travel Counsellors web page, information on travel advice was partly out-of-date and was listed below his social media links.
Since the attack, Thomson has changed its website to include links to travel advice on all destination pages.

Thomson’s Ilkeston store assistant manager, Amy Smallman, also gave evidence, telling the hearing that staff were just doing their jobs by booking Tunisia.

She helped a family, who witnessed the shootings, change their holiday booking from Rhodes in May. “If the FCO said it was safe, then we would sell it,” she said.
Smallman said staff routinely referred customers to the FCO website.

She denied telling customers Paul and Zoe Thompson that Tunisia was “100% safe”.

“I always advise people to follow FCO advice. I would never give safety promises. Nowhere is 100% safe. I wouldn’t have said that.”

The inquests continue.

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